This is more than an academic argument, because what is happening right now affects children. Whether it is the “hammer” of accountability or the “drill” associated with standardized testing, our children are not benefiting from the tools of Race to the Top reform.
Among the more powerful tools is the “buzzsaw” — the Common Core tests’ cut scores — which classify and sort students by test performance. These cut scores, sometimes designed to produce high rates of failure, create an urgency that undermines local control and forcefully imposes unproven reforms across states and the nation. Nowhere is this more apparent than in New York State.
Let’s review how New York’s Common Core test cut scores came to be.
State Education Commissioner John King asked the College Board to “replicate research” to determine what PSAT and SAT scores predict first-year success in four-year colleges. The College Board was asked to correlate SAT scores with college grades to create probabilities of college success. You can read the report here.
Keep in mind that research shows that the SAT’s predictive power is only 22 percent. High school grades are a far better predictor of college success. The lack of validity of scores, without the context of grades, was not taken into consideration.
The New York study chose the following “probabilities” as the definition of college success:
* English Language Arts: a 75 percent probability of obtaining a B- or better in a first-year college English course in a four-year college.
* Math: a 60 percent probability of obtaining a C+ or better in a first-year math course in a four-year college.
Below is the rationale for choosing different criteria for the two courses, as stated in the report:
“Generally speaking, it is much easier to obtain a higher grade in first‐year credit‐bearing ELA courses than in first‐year credit‐bearing math courses”
Both the conclusions and the rationale raise serious questions. First, for which college math courses are we predicting success? Some students begin with college algebra. Others begin with advanced calculus. Still others take courses in statistics. There are all kinds of college math courses of varying difficulty that serve as the first math course for students. Second, is the State Education Department implying that we should have lower math cut scores because math college professors are tougher graders? I think the 75 percent/B- probability was not used for math because, according to the College Board study, it is associated with a score of 710. That is a score that only 6 percent of all college bound seniors obtain.
Why did they choose the higher standard in ELA? If they had chosen the scores associated with 60 percent/C+ in Reading and Writing on the SAT (380, 360), the scores would have included nearly all test takers. That is how irrational the results of the study were.
Ever heard of "cut scores"? Read the article to understand this and why the scoring is so irrational.